This post is sponsored by California Walnuts. As always, all opinions are my own.
I’ve never been a Halloween person; I enjoyed roaming the neighborhood for candy each year with my sister, but as someone who has always been terrified of scary movies and creepy decorations, I will take December 25th over October 31st most days. When I did celebrate Halloween, I always tried to make the day less about death and dying which never really worked (this might play into my actual fear of dying, but that’s a whole other post). Regardless of fears, Halloween was still celebrated each fall with pillowcases full of chocolate and silly last minute costumes, and this year I am actually going to a real Halloween party, which is a first for me. I am bringing treats to share, but as store bought Halloween candy is often too sweet for my taste buds, I decided to make my own chocolate treats. So, here is my adult Halloween candy post – Chocolate Caramel Walnut Shortbread bites. I’ve teamed up with California Walnuts to bring you some recipes over the following year that include, of course, walnuts. Over 99 percent of walnuts grown in the U.S. come from California’s walnut orchards, many of which are on family owned and operated farms that have been around for generations. Walnuts are nutritious and heart-healthy*, and offer 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber per ounce. Walnuts are also the only nut with a significant amount of plant based Omega 3 ALA (2.5 grams/ounce). You can check out the CA Walnuts website for more nutrition info, research, tips for cooking with walnuts, recipes. I’m excited to share more recipes with you!
Chocolate-Walnut Shortbread Bites
¼ cup water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
½ cup corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (80g) confectioners’sugar
½ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks | 226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Egg wash (1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)
2 cups (226g) walnuts, chopped small, plus more for sprinkling if desired
1 ½ pounds (675g) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
For the caramel
Have all your ingredients set up near the stove, ready to go. Pour the water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan (the caramel will bubble up quite a bit once it starts cooking). Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt to the pan, and gently stir the ingredients together, being careful not to get the water or sugar on the sides of the pan. Cook over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to stir the sugar while it melts. When the sugar crystals have completely dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high. The sugar will begin to foam. Let it bubble and boil 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Give the pan a swirl every once in a while to help the sugar turn color evenly. When the sugar turns deep golden brown, remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking carefully (remember, the sugar is crazy hot, and the butter will foam up). Whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla. Set the caramel aside and let it cool to room temperature.
For the shortbread
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and line with a parchment sling. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt on low speed. Add the butter one piece at a time and mix on medium until it is incorporated and the flour mixture looks like wet sand. In a small bowl mix together the egg yolks and vanilla, then pour into the flour mixture and mix until the dough starts to form a ball. Press the shortbread into the bottom of the pan and pat into an even layer (it may look like you won’t have enough, but you do. It will be a thin layer of shortbread). Using the tines of a fork, poke holes across the shortbread and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the shortbread from the oven, and brush the top of it with the egg wash (careful, the pan is hot!). Sprinkle the chopped walnuts evenly over the shortbread. Bake for 10-14 minutes more, until the shortbread is light golden brown around the edges. Move the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.
When the shortbread and caramel have cooled to room temperature, pour the caramel over the top of the shortbread, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly (the walnuts may move a little with the caramel, but it won’t hurt anything). Put the pan in the fridge and let chill for at least an hour. Put about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Melt 30 ounces (618g) of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over the pan of boiling water, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until just melted. Remove from the heat, and add the remaining 2 ounces (57g) of chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is completely smooth (this is a cheater’s method to temper the chocolate). Set aside to cool slightly.
Use the parchment sling to remove the bars from the pan. Cut into bite-sized pieces (I made mine into 1-inch squares). Use two forks to dip the individual squares into the chocolate, and cover them completely in the chocolate (let any extra chocolate drip off back into the bowl in between the tines of the fork). Place the squares on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle the wet chocolate with finely chopped walnuts, and let the chocolate set before eating (you can speed this process up in the fridge if desired).
*Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.